The official Bowl Selection Show for the 2022 College Football season is set for Sunday, December 5th. Typically, SDSU and its fans have to wait until that show to know when and where the Aztecs would play their final game of the season.
This year, the news came six days early. On Monday, the school announced it accepted an invitation to play in the EasyPost Hawai’i Bowl (December 24th, 5 pm PT, ESPN) against Middle Tennessee.
“I haven’t been to Hawai’i in a while,” said SDSU head coach Brady Hoke on Monday during his weekly press conference. “The only times I’ve been (to Hawai’i) is for football games, so why not keep the streak going? We’re excited about it.”
This season’s game will be played at the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex on the University of Hawai’i at Manoa campus. Teams will compete there for the first time in the bowl’s existence after previously playing at Aloha Stadium. The Aztecs defeated the University of Hawaii 17-10 at the venue in 2021.
The Hawai’i Bowl was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to COVID-19. The 2022 game will be its 19th edition.
SDSU played in the Hawai’i Bowl in 2015, defeating Cincinnati, 42-7, behind 99 rushing yards, a rushing touchdown, and a passing touchdown (to fullback Dakota Gordon) by Donnel Pumphrey. Middle Tennessee played in the game the following year, losing to Hawai’i, 52-35.
The teams enter the game with identical 7-5 records and have never met. While the Aztecs are playing in a bowl game for the 12th consecutive full season (excluding 2020, which was shortened by COVID-19), the Blue Raiders have qualified for a bowl game in six of the last eight seasons.
The Aztecs will play a member of Conference USA for the second straight year in a bowl game. Last year, they defeated UTSA, 38-24, in the Frisco Bowl.
The game will be a homecoming for five current players and one assistant coach:
- Senior offensive lineman Alama Uluave (Lale, HI)
- Senior linebacker Seyddrick Lakalaka (Kalihi, HI)
- Sophomore linebacker Darrell Masaniai (Honolulu, HI)
- Freshman offensive lineman Laakea Kapoi (Makakilo, HI)
- Freshman offensive lineman Rambo Mageo (Lale, HI)
- Tight ends coach Savai’i Eselu (Honolulu, HI)
SDSU fans who would like to purchase tickets for the game or sponsor travel costs for members of the band and spirit team can do so here.
Stay tuned for EVT’s full preview of the matchup leading up to the game.
Mountain West All-Conference Honors
On Tuesday, the Mountain West announced its individual awards selected by the 12 head coaches and a select media panel. Despite not making it to the conference championship game, the Aztecs once again dominated the selections.
Jack Browning won Special Teams Player of the Year, the fifth Aztec to win the award in the last eight years. Browning made 17 of 21 field goal attempts and averaged 46 yards per punt, the third-best in SDSU single-season history and eighth-best in the country this year.
For the fourth straight year, the Aztecs had the most first-team selections (seven). The second closest was Fresno State and San Jose State (four). The 16 all-league selections tied a program best for SDSU (2001).
SDSU selections (1st team, 2nd team or Honorable Mention):
OL Alama Uluave (1st)
KR Jordan Byrd (1st)
DL Jonah Tavai (1st)
LB Caden McDonald (1st)
S Patrick McMorris (1st)
P Jack Browning (1st)
PR Jordan Byrd (1st)
WR Tyrell Shavers (2nd)
TE Mark Redman (2nd)
OL Cade Bennett (2nd)
LB Michael Shawcroft (2nd)
QB Jalen Mayden (HM)
WR Jesse Matthews (HM)
DL Keshawn Banks (HM)
CB Dez Malone (HM)
CB Dallas Branch (HM)
Byrd, who was named Preseason Special Teams Player of the Year and likely ended up as runner-up to Browning for the eventual award, became the first Aztec to earn First Team honors at both kick and punt returner after returning one of each for a touchdown in 2022.
McDonald made his third First Team in his career, tying fellow Aztec Kirk Morrison as the only linebackers with that distinction in conference history.
Shavers became the first Aztec receiver to earn First or Second Team honors since Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson in 2010.
The biggest surprise with the team selections was Shawcroft only earning Second Team honors after his stellar play this season, leading the team with 77 tackles and adding 12 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, three pass breakups, and a forced fumble. While McDonald is an exceptional linebacker and deserving of First Team honors, his 2022 statistics (41 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, two pass breakups, and an interception) do not compare favorably to Shawcroft’s.
Super senior decisions – Patrick McMorris is returning
Four seniors have elected to exercise their extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 exemption and return to SDSU in 2023. Quarterback Jalen Mayden, specialist Jack Browning, cornerback Dallas Branch, and safety Cedarious Barfield made their decisions known before the final game against Air Force last Saturday.
Five seniors had yet to make their decisions public, including all-conference honorees Jesse Matthews, Michael Shawcroft, and Patrick McMorris.
McMorris posted a tweet in the afternoon announcing his return to SDSU with the caption: “It was always God’s plan. That’s why it can’t be ruined. One last ride.”
It was always Gods plan. That’s why it can’t be ruined🖤One last ride pic.twitter.com/V5NP9fRa6z
— Patrick McMorris (@McmorrisPatrick) December 3, 2022
After McMorris’ stellar 2021 season, he was on the radar of scouts for the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft. Despite another First Team All-Conference season, McMorris was not as dominant and disruptive playing the aztec position this year which may have led him to want to return for one more season to further develop his skills prior to the 2024 NFL Draft.
Matthews and Shawcroft would likely receive invites to postseason all-star games that serve as showcase events to propel players in their NFL aspirations. Or they could return for a final collegiate season and continue as the cornerstones of the team still looking for its 22nd conference championship.
During a weekly press conference before the game against Air Force, Matthews said he had yet to make a decision and would likely not until after the Aztecs’ bowl game.
“I have to weigh my options, especially me and my future,” Matthews said. “Obviously, I love being in San Diego, and I have been blessed to play here for five years. Having the option to come back is something that’s really awesome. But like I said, I have to talk to my family about it … it’s kind of a big decision for me.”
Shawcroft has not spoken publicly about his decision but likely going through the same thought process as Matthews. Shawcroft has battled and overcome numerous injuries throughout his four years at SDSU (including a lower leg injury that hampered him for the second half of this season) and could potentially decide to move on from football.
The two others, wide receiver TJ Sullivan and defensive lineman Daniel Okpoko also have another year of eligibility, but it is unknown whether their scholarships will be available and renewed for 2023, given the scholarship limit imposed on programs. Both bring experience to positions of need for next year’s team.
Sullivan, who was slated to start as slot wide receiver in 2022, suffered a torn ACL injury in fall camp and missed the entire season. Okpoko was a backup defensive end and played 114 snaps over 11 games in 2022.
CJ Baskerville Transfer
The transfer portal was extremely beneficial to the Aztecs in 2022. In came five starters at key positions (QB, LG, TE, DT, OLB) plus an explosive situational RB post-spring. Two of those starters, Cade Bennett (LG) and Mark Redman (TE), earned Second Team All-Conference honors for performance in their first year on the Mesa. Both players, plus Cooper McDonald (OLB), will be back for at least one more season.
The only starters or key contributors the Aztecs lost in the portal were on the offensive side. QBs Lucas Johnson and Jordon Brookshire, LG Chris Martinez, WR Kobe Smith, and RB Kaegun Williams left following the 2021 season. Only Martinez ended up at the FBS level, starting all 12 games for Arizona State (3-9).
The transfer portal does not officially open its first window until December 5th although graduate transfers are not bound to that window and have been able to talk to other teams and make commitments throughout the season.
The first domino to fall was sophomore safety CJ Baskerville announcing on Twitter on Thursday that he will enter the portal when it opens on Monday. Baskerville (6-2, 210), a 3-star recruit from North Richland Hills, TX, spurned multiple Power 5 offers to come to SDSU.
Baskerville played in all 14 games in 2021, becoming the fourth true freshman to start on defense for SDSU since 2009. He started the final four games of the season at boundary warrior after starter Cedarious Barfield suffered a late-season injury.
Baskerville capped off his freshman season with nine tackles and his first career interception, earning Defensive Most Valuable Player in the Frisco Bowl.
Baskerville started the first seven games of the 2022 season at boundary warrior, collecting 36 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and three pass breakups. He missed four games due to a lower leg injury but returned for the final game of the season against Air Force. He did not, however, return to his starting role (Barfield remained as the starter at BW) and only played six snaps in the second half.
Baskerville’s performance through the first seven games could be considered a disappointment, given the promise and talent shown as a true freshman. Per Pro Football Focus (PFF), he was among the team leaders this season in missed tackles (tied for fifth despite missing most of the last five games) and missed tackle rate (third among players with more than 100 snaps on the season).
Additionally, his PFF grades dropped significantly from 2021 to 2022 in overall defense, tackling, and coverage.
With the decisions by Barfield and McMorris to return for super senior seasons, along with the emergence of walk-on Davaughn Celestine (who started at field warrior since week 2), Baskerville could have seen his starting spot vanish for 2023. It would have been likely that Baskerville slide over to replace McMorris at aztec in 2023 if the incumbent had moved on to the NFL. With his return, plus the infusion of three talented class of 2022 freshmen plus potentially three more who are currently committed in the class of 2023, the competition at all three safety positions will be fierce over the next two years.
Student-athletes decide to transfer for various reasons, some more publicly known than others. With Baskerville, it is unclear whether it is related to a misalignment with coaches on his role, a desire to return closer to home in Texas, or something else. For a player who will surely attract heavy Power 5 attention in the transfer portal, his ultimate decision on where to play in 2023 could yield answers.
Now that the first domino in the outgoing transfer market has fallen, will the floodgates open?